The Resort Centre Area Structure Plan (ASP) was approved on September 21, 2004 by Canmore Town Council. Land use approval was subsequently adopted by Council for the Three Sisters Resort Course, the "Resort Accommodation Area" and the "Resort Core" (Bylaws GRD Dc 36(Z)04, TS-RA1 26(Z)2006, and DC 27(Z)2006).
The original Resort Centre ASP stated that “Resort Centre is envisioned as a new model of health, wellness, fitness and nature-based result that will be unique to the Canadian Rockies, Canada and North America. The focus of the Resort Centre Is a state-of-the-art health, wellness and lifestyle spa facility and related accommodation uses” (Section 1.0). The vision for the Resort Centre ASP amendments remains generally aligned with the vision identified above.
In 2007, approximately 15 of 18 holes had been constructed for the approved Three Sisters Resort Course. East West Partners went into receivership and work to complete the remaining work was halted indefinitely. In 2014, the lands were purchased out of receivership and the owners of Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Ltd were required to assess and determine what would occur with the privately owned unfinished golf course.
In 2015, QPD on behalf of TSMV, embarked on the collaborative Smith Creek ASP process with the Town of Canmore. Since it was still unknown what would happen with the Three Sisters Resort Course, the land area became discontinuous with the Smith Creek area. TSMV was still exploring various options on what to do with the golf course, and the land was left out of the Smith Creek ASP process.
TSMV entered into discussions with the Stewart Creek Golf & Country Club about the option of integrating the Three Sisters Resort Course, in part or in its entirety, into Stewart Creek. Due to the physical constraints, the costs, demand for golf, and the operational requirements, it was determined that integration of the two courses was not feasible.
TSMV also examined what it would take to finish the construction of the course in order to make it operational independently. The assessment showed that the completed 15 holes needed to be restored, resulting in significant construction expenses to complete the course. It was also deemed that demand for golf had declined to such an extent that an additional golf course within Three Sisters was no longer economically viable.
In 2015, QuantumPlace Developments (QPD), as representatives of TSMV, embarked on the collaborative Smith Creek ASP process with the Town of Canmore. While the Resort Centre ASP plan area was not initially included in this process, during public engagement the community expressed a desire for TMSV to address uncertainty over what would happen with the incomplete golf course and to articulate the connection between the two properties.
With this public interest as an incentive, and given the fact that TSMV had exhausted all options to resurrect and complete the golf course, in January 2016 QPD undertook to amend the Resort Centre ASP to address the golf course lands with an alternate form of development.
The Smith Creek ASP is a collaborative process, a forum through which the Town, QPD, stakeholders and the wider community work together to address specific issues, identify achievable solutions and ultimately, create a plan that addresses the needs of TSMV, the Town of Canmore and the community.
The Resort Centre ASP Amendments are an applicant-led initiative to make amendments to an existing approved ASP. Lessons and input from the Town, stakeholders and the community from the Smith Creek ASP process have been applied to the Resort Centre amendment process and have informed the overall amendment approach.
The intent is to address the golf course lands only and this is what amendments submitted as an application for Council to review will focus on.
TSMV will submit an amendment to the Resort Centre ASP to the Town at the same time that they submit the ASP application for Smith Creek. The application will include:
The collaborative process for Smith Creek will continue and the Resort Centre will benefit from the policy development and engagement currently being conducted for Smith Creek. Opportunities to share open houses and communication methods will be maximised. The Resort Centre ASP amendment and the Smith Creek ASP will move forward together at the same public hearing.
There are an estimated 2,346 golf courses and an estimated 1.5 million golfers in Canada. That is one course for every 625 players or 14,500 Canadians1. Canadians are also playing less golf than they used to. A study by the National Allied Golf Associations, or NAGA, found that the number of rounds played on the average Canadian course has dropped 10 per cent over the past five years, with the blame falling on everything from waning interest in the game to the time commitment required.
According to the National Golf Foundation’s Golf Facilities in Canada 2015 report, a total of 158 facilities in Canada have closed within the last ten years. Alberta has experienced 20 9-hole course closures and 6 18-hole golf course closures, equalling a total of 26. The vast majority of the total closures were public, stand-alone courses. Only five private courses have closed during the past decade. Nine-hole facilities were by far the largest casualty, outpacing 18-hole closures by more than two to one.
1 Sorenson, C. Why Canadian Golf is Dying: The culprits, hubris and the demise of free time. Maclean’s July 4, 2014
At this stage of planning, we do not have a specific size or design proposed for the spa; however, it is envisioned that it maybe home to a spa, wellness clinic and waterpark, that is an activity centre by all ages. Inspired by the rustic Scandinave spas at Whistler and Mont-Tremblant – with elements of the high-tech Sparkling Hills, the spa – as luxurious as it is expert in its treatments – could feature an assortment of hot and cold pools and showers, saunas and steam rooms, fireside loungers and hammocks. The spa and wellness clinic could offer an assortment of treatments: physical therapy procedures and massage for those needing only to repair sore muscles after a day of skiing; or full-on turning back time with consultations, acupuncture, cryotherapy, cleaning and hormone balancing. Within the facility, but separate from the energetic repose of the spa, the may be indoor and outdoor pools, cold, warm and hot, and a number of slides and rides that will delight youngsters – but it’ll also be tranquil and tasteful enough to win over adults with log cabanas, loungers and alpine vibes.
Such is the project team’s vision for the spa space. At this stage, however, the planning is very conceptual and no building specifics are being planned.
While the exact number of units will be determined at a later stage of development, the ASP amendments provide for a range of units that can be built in the Plan Area. The intention is to ensure developers have enough flexibility to respond to market demands while respecting the maximum number of permitted units outlined in the 1998 Settlement Agreement.
The proposed amendment to the Resort Centre ASP provides for a range of 1,600-3,450 units. This range is intended to provide flexibility to transfer units between the TSMV areas while still adhering to the overall unit cap identified in DC 1-98. The proposed Smith Creek ASP provides for 1,200-1,700 units.
The master zoning bylaw DC1-98 (resulting from the 1998 Settlement Agreement) provided for a total of 5,478 residential, resort accommodation and timeshare units across TSMV lands. Currently, there are 4,218 units remaining in TSMV.
Yes. The Resort Centre ASP amendment enables the provision of employee housing. Employee housing refers to one or more dwelling units used exclusively for the residence of employees working in the Bow Valley and members of their family. The ratio of employee housing will be determined on a case-by-case basis between the Town and the Applicant at the development permit application stage of development. The ratio will be based on an employee generation analysis.
The Resort Centre is envisioned as having a high level of pedestrian connectivity within and beyond the Plan Area. Not only are areas such as the Resort Village envisioned as being pedestrian friendly and highly walkable as vehicular traffic will be kept to a minimum, there will be connection to existing trails such as the Highline.
Through engagement, TSMV has heard that there is a desire for trailheads, parking lots, information/interpretive signage and wayfinding signage. In addition, there are a number of private recreational opportunities being considered for the area as well. These include mountain bike circuits, indoor mountain biking opportunities, zip lining, and ropes courses. These types of recreational uses will be enabled in the ASP.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) identified a number of important wildlife mitigations that will inform the Resort Centre ASP amendments. The proposed wildlife mitigations are comprehensive and must be viewed as a holistic or complete strategy in order to reduce negative human wildlife interactions within the Bow Valley. Four key strategies have been identified.
A “soft edge” approach to wildlife corridor management refers to the practice of leaving development areas adjacent to corridors with as much open space as possible to increase the “effective width” of the corridor. This, it was thought, would reduce the effects of sensory disturbance on wildlife travelling within corridors. A key assumption of this approach is that wildlife would want to strongly avoid human development. The 2004 Resort Centre ASP reflects this thinking.
However, more recently, wildlife science and local experience has shown that soft edges compromise the ability of wildlife corridors to facilitate movement for two key reasons.
Given the increase in wildlife interaction both in areas adjacent to and within the wildlife corridor, a “hard edge” approach to corridor management has been recommended as a strategy to mitigate negative human-wildlife interaction. In the Resort Centre ASP amendments, this hard edge will be achieved through the implementation of a fence.
In 2002, Golder recommended that development areas adjacent to wildlife corridors should include as much open space as possible. The intention of the “soft edge” approach was to increase the “effective width” of the wildlife corridor by reducing the effects of sensory disturbance on wildlife travelling within corridors, thereby increasing the probability that the corridor would be used. This thinking is reflected in the Resort Centre ASP and is now being proposed for amendment. However, since the approval of the Resort Centre ASP in 2004, wildlife science and local experience has shown that the soft edge approach actually compromises the ability of wildlife corridors to facilitate wildlife movement. In addition, soft edges do little to discourage humans from using the wildlife corridor.
Due to the prevalence of humans within the corridor and an increase in human conflict with animals like elk, grizzly bears, and cougars that frequently select for soft edges, the Resort Centre ASP amendments’ wildlife biologists and experts from Alberta Fish and Wildlife, Parks Canada, and Alberta Environment and Parks now suggest a “hard edge” approach to corridor management.
Overall, a wildlife conservation fence has been recommended as the most effective strategy for reducing human-wildlife interactions, provided the fence is implemented as one of several components of a broader wildlife mitigation strategy including attractant management.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) examines opportunities to mitigate, reduce or eliminate the negative environmental impacts of development. Data informing the recommendations in the EIS pertain to wildlife habitation, human wildlife interactions and human use in the wildlife corridor.
Other recent studies are showing that wildlife in the Bow Valley are extremely adaptive and are selecting to be in developed areas. Between 1985 and 2011 2,807 carnivore conflicts were reported within conflict zones overlapping the study area; 353 of which occurred in zones adjacent to wildlife corridors. Ninety per cent of conflicts involved bears and, most occurred in residential areas. Places like Peaks of Grassi, the Homesteads, Rundleview, Cougar Creek, and Silvertip where housing developments occur adjacent to open spaces are conflict “hotspots”. Similar patterns were identified by an Alberta Environment and Parks analysis of conflict data from 2000-2014. In addition, data collected between 2009 and 2012 from remote cameras deployed in and around the Along Valley, Tipple and Stewart Creek wildlife corridors are showing a significant number of people and their dogs captured on camera. People and their dogs are more than twice as frequent as all other wildlife species combined.
The mitigation strategies proposed in the EIS are intended to ensure a comprehensive approach to reducing human-wildlife interactions and facilitating wildlife movement through the wildlife corridor.
Over the last three years there has not been a huge amount of new data related to corridor functionality and wildlife movement. In that sense, very little has changed. Provincial lands continue to provide substantial opportunities for wildlife movement. Changes in corridor design are a result of the CAG process and engagement with the community, not changes in available data about wildlife movement. However, there has been new data related to human use in the wildlife corridors. Cameras in the wildlife corridors are providing much more data about how many people are using wildlife corridors and how the wildlife corridors are being used by humans.
New wildlife movement data relates to wolves. This year a wolf pack was captured on cameras deployed in the Along Valley wildlife corridor on the south side of Canmore. This is something that has not happened previously and demonstrates that wolves in the Bow Valley are becoming increasingly habituated. Habituation is the root cause that resulted in two wolves of the Bow Valley Pack being removed from the ecosystem.
The wildlife fence will be built by TSMV at the time of development. The fence can be proposed to be maintained via a variety of mechanisms including an Owner’s Association and/or registering the fence as an easement on private title for land owners to maintain. Currently, Town Administration is investigating the pros and cons of taking on the ownership and maintenance of the fence and exploring potential community tax mechanisms. Decision on Town ownership and maintenance of the wildlife fence is ultimately subject to Council approval.
QPD will work with the project biologists and fencing experts to determine specific details on how to treat gates, jump-outs, roads and other natural and man-made features at future planning stages (i.e. land use and subdivision stages). These are similar issues that have been dealt with regularly when installing fencing along the Trans-Canada Highway and other highway fencing projects.
While intrusions are inevitable, they can be minimized through attractant management (i.e., keeping fruit bearing trees and shrubs and animals like elk out of the developed areas). In the event of intrusion, wildlife would be removed from the developed area using swing gates. Swing gates have been recommended by local wildlife experts as the preferred method to remove wildlife from developed areas as they cause less stress on the animal and are easier to use than jump-outs.
Wildlife fencing to help achieve separation between people and ungulates and carnivores has proven effective in jurisdictions such as Jackson, Wyoming (Dippel 2016, pers. comm.). In Jackson, unobtrusive wildlife fencing has helped to contribute to very low levels of human wildlife conflict along the Town and National Elk Refuge interface and was a mitigation put in place several decades ago (Figures 14 and 15). Without the wildlife fence, refuge staff feel there would be a significant increase in conflicts (Dippel 2016, pers. comm.). In a recent email to Y2Y, Alyson Courtemanch, a wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Dept. of Game and Fish living in Jackson, stated that ‘without the fence we could have thousands of elk on the highway or in downtown Jackson during the winter creating enormous human safety (and elk safety) issues”. Similarly, a recent global survey of human-bear conflicts conducted by Can et al. (2014, pg. 501) indicates that, within the toolbox of available mitigation, “the peer-reviewed literature indicates a heavy reliance on education and physical barriers for conflict mitigation”.
As with any development, the loss of habitat will be an impact of the development. The 1992 NRCB decision already considered the loss of habitat in their decision to allow the Three Sisters development to move forward. While loss of habitat is always a concern, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) suggests mitigation strategies that are expected to result in a “net positive” impact for the ecosystem because the benefits of reducing negative human-wildlife interactions and restoring natural predator prey interactions (e.g., elk and wolves). The benefits of the comprehensive suite of mitigations (below) are expected to outweigh the loss of the golf course as habitat.